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Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan

VICTORIA TIMES: Afghan Women Leading Social Change; activist Sally Armstrong

VICTORIA TIMES: Afghan Women Leading Social Change; activist Sally Armstrong

Behind the depressing news from Afghanistan are women achieving healthy social change, says an international journalist with wide experience in conflict zones all over the world.

Award-winning journalist and Order of Canada recipient Sally Armstrong, who splits her time between Toronto and Saltspring Island, will speak at the First Metropolitan United Church tonight at 7 on the effect of decades of war on Afghan women.

In a telephone interview, Armstrong said that after covering conflicts in places such as Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda and Afghanistan from the point of view of women and girls, she is convinced Afghan women are now on the move.

"It's never going to be Victoria, British Columbia," Armstrong said Tuesday. "But my very strong feeling is that it's the women who can yank this very primitive place into the 21st century."

She said women are chipping away at some of the worst Islamic-based abuses, such as polygamy, by resorting to Qur'an based arguments.

For example, after conducting a survey showing more than 86 per cent of Afghans disapprove of polygamy, they didn'ttrumpet the results.

Instead, they showed the Qur'an permits men to take multiple wives only under narrow circumstances. So they avoided backlash citing blasphemy but still marginalized polygamists.

Young women in particular are taking responsibility for their own dignity as never before.

For example, no longer will they meekly accept the revolting taunts thrown their way by Afghan men in the street.

"Now these young people will stop and ask 'What did you say?' " said Armstrong.

"And they say 'I have every right to walk on this street, every right that you have so - Cut. It. Out.' "

She also applauded Canadian government and humanitarian efforts to assist the women of Afghanistan.

Armstrong said she believes people are so weary of Afghanistan they are reaching for the wrong conclusion, that all the interventions have been a failure. "Their conclusion is that we failed and that's entirely wrong," she said.

"In the [future] they will find Canada did a splendid job in Afghanistan, both the military and the humanitarian-aid people."

Tickets for Armstrong's event are $15. The event is co-hosted by the Victoria chapter of the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which supports education for Afghan women and their families.
For more information go to www.cw4wafghan.ca.

rwatts@timescolonist.com
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